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Puccini World Premiere at Bocelli’s San Francisco Concert

November 26, 2019

Tenor Andrea Bocelli will open his winter tour of the U.S. here on Dec. 5, with the San Francisco Symphony and SF Symphony Chorus in Chase Center. A high point of the concert will be the first public performance of a newly discovered work by Giacomo Puccini, written in 1893.

Eminent American musicologist Michael Kaye, author of The Unknown Puccini, is responsible for developing and arranging the project with the Bocelli team.

Kaye told SF Classical Voice that “Puccini composed the work during his student days in Lucca. It was originally a solfeggio for voice and piano.

“According to the oldest Italian traditions, such solfeggi were often equipped with texts (liturgical or non-liturgical) instead of the syllables do, re, mi, etc. Some of them became classic Italian art songs such as ‘Vergin tutt’amor,’ ‘Danza, danza, fanciulla gentile,’ etc.”

When Kaye showed the music to Bocelli, the singer asked to add words of a prayer. “We decided on the prayer to the guardian angel, ‘Angele Dei.’

“Since Bocelli has become synonymous with opera for millions of people, this new addition to his repertoire is important to me and may reinforce the concept that we all need and often have guardian angels,” Kaye says.

In the preface to Kaye’s edition to the song, published by Schott, he writes:

“Puccini’s ancestors, and his brother Michele, all wrote solfeggi. Other than the organ lessons he gave in his student days in Lucca, Giacomo Puccini never had any inclination for teaching. His non-operatic compositions were required student works and salon songs for friends, special occasions, and periodicals.

“For many years, the manuscript of the solfeggio published in the present edition was privately owned. It was acquired in 2008 by the Biblioteca Statale di Lucca as part of the Bonturi-Razzi Collection, a treasure trove of 515 documents from Puccini’s personal and professional life, including letters, correspondence, postcards, poems, photographs, and drawings; as well as an annotated piano-vocal score of Puccini’s second opera, Edgar, a fragmentary sketch for La fanciulla del West, and the manuscript of the solfeggio.

“They were collected by Giuseppe (Beppe) Razzi, the husband of Alaide (Ida) Bonturi, sister of Puccini’s wife Elvira. The manuscript consulted for the present edition consists of 31 measures of music written on both sides of a single page headed Solfeggio.”

The program for the Dec. 5 concert is not published, but SF Symphony sources expect Bocelli to sing selections from his new album, Sì Forever: the Diamond Edition. As Bocelli’s son, Matteo, is on tour with him, they are likely to perform the father/son duo “Fall on Me,” from the album. Given the time of year, Bocelli may well perform selections from his 2009 holiday collection, My Christmas.

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].